A veteran soldier and statesman, internationally-renowned spokesperson for Israel, and prominent architect of Israel's peace initiatives, Dr. Ephraim Sneh has dedicated his life to defending the State of Israel while seeking opportunities to fortify Israel's future through peace with her neighbors.
Both as general in the Israeli Defense Forces and a strong leader in the Knesset, Dr. Sneh has been one of the most influential voices on the need for Israel's military superiority, the existential dangers posed by rogue states like Iran, and the strategic value of peaceful co-existence with the Palestinians.He is currently the Chairman of S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue in Netanya Academic College. Early Years: The Doctor Soldier
Born in Tel Aviv in 1944, Ephraim Sneh's long and distinguished career in the Israeli Defense Forces began in 1962 when he was drafted into the Nahal Infantry Brigade. "Nahal" is the Hebrew acronym for "Noar Halutz Lohem" - Fighting Pioneer Youth - a unique corps in the Israeli Defense Forces that combines military service in a combat unit with the establishment of a kibbutz or moshav (collective and semicollective communities).
After finishing his compulsory service in the IDF, Sneh attended medical school at the Tel Aviv University and graduated in 1972 with a specialty in internal medicine.
With his newly acquired expertise and desire to continue serving the State of Israel, Sneh returned to army service, spending the next several years as a medical officer in the IDF paratrooper corps.
Rising to the rank of Brigadier-General, Sneh, who demonstrated incredible skill in both practicing medicine and commanding soldiers, commanded a medical unit of the Paratroopers Brigade during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and served on the front lines of the battles in the Suez Canal zone and beyond into Egypt.
In 1976, in one of the most daring and dramatic anti-terror operations in Israel's history, Sneh commanded the medical team that participated in the liberation of more than one hundred Israelis held hostage in the Entebbe Airport in Uganda, 2,200 miles from Israel. In 1978, Sneh established the elite IAF Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit (669) and was its commander until 1980.
Achieving a unique promotion as an IDF medical officer, Sneh was appointed as commander of the Security Zone in Southern Lebanon from 1981-1982 during the lead-up to the Lebanon War, and worked closely with the South Lebanese Army to ensure the protection of Israel's northern border from terrorist attacks.
Continuing his medical studies, from 1983-1984 Sneh completed a prestigious research fellowship at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the United States Army's leading center of clinical research and innovation.
From 1985-1987, Sneh served as head of the IDF Civil Administration in the West Bank that oversaw all government services for more than one million Palestinians. Supervising 15,000 Israeli and Palestinian employees, Sneh worked to improve the quality of life of the Palestinian population. It was during this period that Sneh began to forge personal relationships with Palestinian leaders that would prove to be an important foundation for serious dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
He retired from the military in 1987 with the rank of Brigadier-General.
As the son of renowned Zionist leader and Israeli politician Moshe Sneh, Ephraim Sneh was raised in a highly political and engaged environment.
Sneh's foray into Israeli politics was serving as co-Chairman of Yitzhak Rabin's stunning electoral victory in 1992. Sneh also promoted sweeping reforms in the Labor Party's electoral system that has become the model for political party electoral reform in Israel today.
In 1992, Sneh was first elected to the Knesset and served in the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence Subcommittee. Working closely with Prime Minister Rabin on Palestinian issues, Sneh spearheaded efforts to establish contacts with Palestinian leaders, conduct negotiations, and prepare the groundwork for agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Sneh ,as a special emissary of Shimon Peres and Itzhak Rabin conducted in 1988 the first secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO.
In 1994, Sneh was appointed Minister of Health in Prime Minster Rabin's Cabinet. As the first physician to ever hold this position, he championed the improvement of health care standards in Israel as never before. Sneh fought corruption in hospital systems, enhanced the quality of care in development areas in the Negev and Galilee, and saw the establishment of the National Health Insurance Law, a ground-breaking reform which ensured equal access to health care coverage for all citizens.
In 1996, Sneh was re-elected to the Knesset and served as Chairman of the Control Subcommittee on IDF and Defense Industries and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Defense Planning and Policy. In these positions, he initiated change in the IDF to reflect new realities in the region, and fought against military budget cuts.
In July 1999, Dr. Sneh was re-elected for a third term to the Knesset and was appointed to the post of Deputy Defense Minister under Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. At this time, he distinguished himself as a leading voice on the existential threat that Iran and Iraq posed to Israel. Sneh also promoted exporting Israel's arms technology to friendly countries and enhanced important strategic projects.
Appointed Minister of Transportation in the National Unity Government in March 2001, Sneh masterminded the new national train system, protected the rights of transportation workers, and, as a result of 9/11, initiated security reforms in air, land, and sea transportation including accelerated efforts to defend passenger aircraft against missiles attacks.
In 2003, in an effort to jump-start the peace process and pave the way back to the Road Map, Sneh co-authored "the Gaza Pilot" plan with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that encouraged the transfer of control in Gaza to the Palestinians, the development of economic infrastructure, and crackdown on terror in the area.
In March 2006, he was re-elected to the Knesset and again served as Chairman of the Labor Parliamentary Faction.
In October 2006 Sneh was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Defence. He held this position until June 2007.
In May 2008 Ephraim Sneh left the Labor party and resigned from the Knesset. He established a new party "Israel Hazaka" (a strong Israel), which he considered as Israel's "New Labor". The new party did not succeed to enter the Knesset in the general elections of February 2009.
Ephraim Sneh frequently appears as an analyst on international news programs and his articles have been widely printed in publications such as The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. Dr. Sneh has traveled widely throughout the United States - speaking before American Jewish groups such AIPAC, IPF, American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defimation League; think-tanks such as the Aspen Institute and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and college campuses across the US.
His second book, An Israeli Strategy for Peace and Security: Navigating Perilous Waters, was published in Hebrew in 2002 and released in English and Russian in March 2005.
Dr. Sneh lives in Herzliya with his wife, Tikvah, and is the father of two daughters Eve and Rachel.